Sunday, 5 July 2015


“Originality depends only on the character of the drawing and the vision peculiar to each artist.” - Georges Seurat

John [Arthur Malcolm] Aldridge (26 July 1905 – 3 May 1983) was an accomplished oil painter, skilled draftsman, wallpaper designer, and esteemed art teacher in the United Kingdom. He was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy (ARA) in 1954 and a Royal Academician (RA) in 1963.

Born in Woolwich, England, Aldridge grew up in a comparatively wealthy military family. After attending Uppingham School in Rutland, Aldridge studied ‘Greats’ at Corpus Christi College at Oxford University and graduated in 1928 with a Bachelor of Arts degree. After finishing university, Aldridge settled in London, taught himself to paint and held his first mixed exhibition in 1931.

From 1928 to 1933 he lived in London, making frequent visits to Holland, France, Italy, Germany and Spain. In 1933 he moved to Essex, settling in Great Barfield. At the time he was one of a group of artists including Eric Ravilious and Edward Bawden who found inspiration in the Essex countryside. They later collected together an exhibition of their own pictures, which toured the villages of Essex.

His first one-man show was at the Leicester Galleries, London in 1933, he later exhibited with the Seven and Five Society alongside artists such as Ben Nicholson, Ivon Hitchens, David Jones and John Piper. Although he never went to art school, Aldridge became a remarkable and valued part-time teacher at the Slade School of Fine Art.

Besides painting in oils, Aldridge designed textiles and wallpapers, and illustrated books. His pictures are built up out of the commonplace ingredients that any observant person could have found in the villages and fields and back gardens of Essex. Aldridge proved again, what so many artists have proved before him, that subject matter is no more than a starting point for adventure.

Aldridge’s art work is with the British Council and in the London collections of the Tate Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the Royal Academy. The major holding of Aldridge’s work is in the North West Essex Collection of the Fry Art Gallery in Saffron Walden, Essex. In 1999, the Fry Art Gallery presented a show of his oils and in 2000 an exhibition of his drawings and prints. An exhibition of his landscape oils and other works from across his career was held at the Fry from 7 September to 27 October 2013.

The painting above is “Autumn” (1946) and shows Aldridge’s style well. Fine composition, a good sense of space, carefully applied colour, which can sometimes be surprising brilliant, or studiously understated and muted. There is a good underlying draughtsmanship and a well-rounded pleasing whole that invites the viewer into the work.

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